look beyond the urban rush
and glimpse a vanished world
thriving amidst concrete and brick
Tucked behind a gate on a busy road in the middle of the city of Lincoln (UK), lies an oasis of green amongst the urban sprawl. The place is well concealed, surrounded by buildings, but walk a short path and you’ll find yourself within an area of nearly two hectares, filled with fruit trees – the Cross O’Cliff orchard.
The place is a wildlife haven, attracting birds, butterflies, bees, and insects galore. The old trees and dead wood provide perfect conditions for insects and beetles, whilst the fallen apples and pears are a welcome food source for a number of different creatures. In the early 2000s, with the help of a Wildspace! grant from English Nature, the orchard was designated a local nature reserve,
The Cross O’Cliff orchard first appeared on maps in the late 1800s, though it could date back further. It’s filled with a range of fruit trees, including a number of specialist heritage varieties. One such apple is the ‘Peasgood Nonsuch’, described by the RHS in 1872 as ‘One of the most handsome apples in cultivation’. Despite it having been awarded a first-class certificate, it never became commercially important as it didn’t travel well. Other varieties include the Allington Pippin, the Blenheim Orange and the Glou Morceau. Only in orchards, such as the one at Cross O’Cliff, do such varieties of apple survive.
The story of Cross O’Cliff orchard has not always been a good one. In the early 1990s, after nearly 50 years of neglect, the orchard was nearly lost. The then Lincolnshire county council, who owned the land, granted itself planning permission to build houses on the space. Fortunately, through a change in the council and the tireless hard work of local campaigners, the orchard was saved. Restoration began in 1995.
It is only through the continuing hard work of locals – the Cross O‘Cliff Area Residents Group – that the orchard remains open to the public. Members regularly meet to assist with jobs such as tree planting and pruning, hedge laying and meadow mowing. Hopefully, the orchard will remain for many future generations to enjoy.